One of the great things about California wines over the last decade plus is the success from many wineries expressing the different shades and flavors the vast state is able to produce. There have definitely been different times when 'The Californian Style' was seemingly etched in stone and anyone that deviated wasn't successful. Pinot Noir has been through a bigger/better/faster/more phase of popularity, but a wave of more restrained and food friendly producers has brought the drier, vibrant side of the grape back into the public eye. Noted sommelier Rajat Parr and his winemaking partner Sashi Moorman have been at the forefront of this movement with their Sanhi and Domaine de la Cote projects, but like so many of the most interesting Pinots they are priced out of the range for a large part of the public to experiment with and test their preferences. Thankfully Parr and Moorman have built on the success to develop just such a bridge wine by creating the Lompoc Wine Co. line. Made from a single 15 acre site planted more recently on their Domaine de la Cote property, it sees all the attention and quality management as the other famous parcels (organic practices, low yielding vineyards) but constructed to be much more approachable in their youth and easier to enjoy.
From the first pour the aromas are noticeably on the more savory side of the spectrum, with cooler cherry skin tones, cranberry and even hints of mint or clove, very reflective of the cool climate of the Santa Rita Hills that sit well within the fog zone close to ocean. On the palate the texture is super polished and silky, and with the dry lower alcohol character a bit lighter but not lacking in flavor or intensity. The bright natural acidity really brings out the cranberry tones, especially through the finish. While there will probably never be a 'cheap' version of a Pinot Noir like this, this provides great value for those that want more subtlety from the variety.
First day of Fall, so it's the last in-store tasting of this Summer's selection of Rose..... at least until Thanksgiving, when the wines are surprisingly versatile and well-suited for most tables. Marsannay sits at the northernmost end of Burgundy's famous Cote d'Or, barely outside the city limits of Dijon. It is the newest of the recognized AOC designations in Burgundy (established in 1987) and has no designated 1er Cru sites. For red and white wines it is relatively nondescript, but for Rose it is the ONLY appellation recognized in Burgundy. It has the right balance of good-but-not-outstanding grape quality and higher acidity to make quality Rose from Pinot Noir without the vigneron feeling as if they should have made a more lucrative red wine instead. Regis Bouvier is considered among the very best producers from this part of Burgundy (even their reds are exceptional), and if there was ever a Rose that was perfectly suited for the early Fall just as much as the Summer, this would be the one.
A lovely salmon color in the glass, almost Provencal in fact, but from the first sniff the wine is distinctly not from the Mediterranean. Lots of cherry skin and rose petal aromas that extend on to the palate, as well as that round, extremely polished texture Pinot Noir is so renowned for. The subtlety through the finish is equally Burgundian in nature, and only improves in complexity as it opens up with air, getting more subtle savory red fruits and even gaining some richness on the palate.
The line between the top edge Beaujolais and the bottom edge of the Macon is precisely drawn, at least for labeling purposes. Beaujolais is at its best when Gamay is planted, and likewise the Macon at its best with Chardonnay. But in their histories both grapes have existed to some extent in both regions, and you can still find pockets of vineyards sporting Gamay from the Macon (which we have featured in past Select Six's and Insider's Picks) and Chardonnay in Beaujolais. Jean-Paul Brun is a traditionalist, largely considered one of the very best producers NOT making wines from the more famous Cru vineyards, instead focusing on his family estate in the South closer to Lyon. With 80+ year old vines at his disposal the family has shown an impressive dedication to Chardonnay, resisting the pressure of social convention to tear them out and replant to Gamay like everyone else. The proof is, as always, in the glass, where the wine stands toe to toe with similarly price Bourgogne Chardonnay.
Pale gold in the glass, the first aromas are all fresh citrus and stone fruits, followed by some cool mint and fresh herbs.As a traditional producer their use of native yeasts and minimal sulfur at bottling allows for very distinctive aromas and flavors to show through, as well as no oak barrels. On the palate the texture is round and moderately full, benefiting greatly from the older vines and extended time aging on the lees, pulling out every last possible ounce of flesh. Fans of crystal clean styles of white wines- Burgundy especially but also even Loire wine fans- will thoroughly enjoy this for its refreshing palate and transparency.
One of our favorite wine sources over the last decade+ has been South Africa, especially with the growth and discovery of new producers from evolving regions like the Swartland and Walker's Bay. But it is also important to keep in mind the Old School that helped to open the doors that those from the New School have walked through so successfully. After the fall of apartheid in 1994, the opportunity to export wines increased dramatically and the majority of quality wine producers were centered in Stellenbosch, who were in the best position to be introduced into the newly available world market. Most people's opinions on South African wines were formed in the late 90s, and in many instances it wasn't for the better as most wineries struggled to catch up to modern techniques and technology. Kanonkop was among the first producers to make their way over, known as one of the handful of family run estates still operating in South Africa, and was among the first to bottle a varietal designated Pinotage. There is a very good chance that for many of you old enough to have been drinkers in the late 90s that an early bottle of Kanonkop Kadette was your first taste of South African wine. And even after all these years ad the emergence of all the 'critter labels' and other value producers, it still remains one of the best examples of what's good about the traditional South African style.
Made primarily from Pinotage with a balance of Bordeaux varietals, the wine is deep and youthful in color with an aroma full of deep plummy fruit. The well known Pinotage gaminess (which, in the bad or under-ripe examples, can veer over to the realm of burning tires) is in perfect control, just enough to let you know where the wine is from and provide some character. On the palate the fruit is very rich and polished, much like a similarly priced Bordeaux but with finer tannins, as well as the Pinotage showing a hint of extra meatiness through the finish. If you like something a little more savory and unique for your meal, perhaps doing some dish a little wilder than usual like deer or rabbit, a wine like this is tailor made to make it an even more memorable experience.
INSIDER'S PICK: 2014 ROARK WINERY MERLOT SANTA YNEZ VALLEY (Vinous 90-93points) $27.99
Merlot may not seem like the most exciting of wine choices sometimes. But that is the fault of the winemaking, not the grape itself. Over the decades (and not just because of the one line from the movie "Sideways") the grape has become domestically a synonym for 'Cabernet Light' or a wine for the less serious drinkers. While Merlot SHOULD be less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon by its nature, it shouldn't be beaten down to a flat inoccuous nothingness that far too many production Merlots have become. So when we find one that really fascinates us we want to tell the whole world about it. The small, virtually one-man operation run by Ryan Roark in Buellton is a bare bones winery that focuses on building wines from organic/biodynamic sources and letting the wines express their unique terroir through native yeast fermentations and very minimal manipulation through the aging process. The first wine we received from him, a Syrah, is a real stunner, and this recently arrived follow-up is equally exciting.
From the first pour (and yes, it's in a rounded bottle instead of the more traditional Bordeaux shape because they want to keep costs low by using the same shape for all the reds) the aromas are WAY more complex than your typical Merlot, with smoke and leathery tones in with the deep plum and currant notes, as well as hints of some tart red fruits. The native yeasts bring out more of the spice or savory aromas, helping to pull out even more nuanced fruit as it opens up. On the palate the texure has all the typical Merlot roundness and smooth fine grain tannins, but there is so much more complexity that matches the aromas. Loads of dark currant up front, and the unfiltered nature of the wine really makes it taste exceptionally rich without an oaky presence, and a long lingering finish that picks up some of the tart red fruits and shows off the wine's natural acidity. This is a special Merlot that deserves a special occasion, and a tribute to a winery that is doing standout work with a grape that so often just disappears into the crowd.
The Best of the Best.
We offering free tastings on these wines in the store every Thursday and Friday, and a 10% discount off the retail price through the duration of the day. Come on by and give them a try!